Homophily in Hiring Discrimination

By Nisha Sweet

         Homophily is a sociological theory that suggests that individuals have the tendency to seek out those who are most similar to them in socially significant ways (Retica). This phenomenon is present in many aspects of our lives, such as in our friend groups and who we find ourselves attracted to. Unfortunately, this theory also comes into play in the workplace, specifically the hiring process. This idea can present itself in either strictly discriminating against certain ethnic and gender categories or it can be evident in favoritism towards in-group members (members of a group with a shared identity) (Edo).

         Several studies have shown that there is a high prevalence of racial discrimination in against minority applicants in countries with a diverse immigration history such as the United States, Canada, Australia and Sweden (Edo). Implicit or explicit biases can be acted upon by the employer as soon as a name is tied to the applicant applying for a position. In terms of race, many minority individuals applying for jobs opt to “whiten” their resumes, essential scrubbing racial cues from their resumes by changing foreign sounding names to stereotypically American names or removing words such as “Black” or “Asian” from past memberships or organizational involvements in fear of revealing their race. A common concern for Asian applicants is hurdling the language barrier which is why some choose to change their name or edit the rhetoric in their resumes to be more “westernized” (Gerdeman).

         Similar actions are taken by women applying to jobs to prevent from being screened out immediately. Since men still dominate more than 70% of top managerial positions, guidelines in the hiring process can be reflective of the company values and workplace culture itself (Mitchell). Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 addressed the unlawfulness of issues such as sex discrimination in the hiring process as well as pregnancy discrimination, which is a common concern for women seeking secure jobs and expect to have children (EEOC). Although this drastically improved and combated intentional discrimination based on gender, inherent biases still exist preventing women from advancing in their careers through promotions.

         Addressing hiring discrimination practices is important in workplace and must start with employers understanding their implicit and explicit biases and the discriminatory nature of traditional hiring practices. Although blind recruitment is an option, some applicants may feel that their race, gender, sex, or social class is an important part of their identity or life experiences and wouldn’t want to exclude it from their application as it would give a better picture of who they are. Being cognoscente of fostering a diverse company culture through diversity recruiting initiatives is an important way to expand applicant pools and help applicants feel included and wanted. Homogeneity is not the answer when it comes to hiring; Diversity in hiring leads to a more productive, more creative and more empathetic workplace.

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